Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nian Gao (aka Mochi Cake)

Nian gao

Another Chinese dessert that is traditionally eating in the winter, or more specifically, for the New Year, is nian gao. Similar to the Korean dduk and Japanese mochi, it is made from glutinous rice flour, which can be found in Asian grocery stores. Make sure you get the glutinous version (I buy the green bag with the 3 elephants on it) versus regular rice flour (the red bag with the 3 elephants on it). This recipe (from Joanna Lee) has sweetened red beans baked into it and is very rich because of all the butter. You could use a little less butter, but really, why would you want to?

Dropping the red beans

Nian Gao (Mochi Cake with Red Beans)
makes 24 pieces

1 stick unsalted butter, melted (and cooled to room temperature)
1 1/4 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups milk, warmed to a little hotter than a fever
1 pound (16 ounces) glutinous rice flour (the green bag with the 3 elephants on it)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 (18.75 ounce) can red bean paste or sweetened red beans

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and milk. Stir in the rice flour and baking powder. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Drop red bean paste by scant teaspoonfuls onto the top of the cake. If spoonfuls are too big, the filling will sink to the bottom.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cake springs back when lightly touched. It should be golden.

Serve small slices of this very rich cake at room temperature or slightly warmed.

Mochi cake

The hardest part about making this dish is getting all the ingredients to mix. You don't want the butter to be too hot or else it will cook the eggs, but if the milk is straight out of the fridge it will solidify the butter. If you do run into that problem, you could try microwaving the mixture just enough so that the butter melts again, but I think it is easier to get the milk warm before adding it to the butter.

For extra decadence, you can slice the nian gao into thin slices, dip them in beaten egg, and pan-fry for Cantonese-style nian gao.

Fried nian gao


  1. yep, will def let you know if we do the sewing thing again. haha. and i love nian gao!!! :)

  2. i'm planning to try the version that uses 3/4 c vegetable oil instead of butter -- i'm told you can just dump everything into the bowl at once and mix until frothy. (it's basically the same recipe as you have, but with veg oil.) there's also a slight variation that tells you to bake half the batter for 10 min before adding the red bean paste, so you don't risk having the filling sink to the bottom.

  3. @B - Ooh, you'll have to let me know how it goes!